Chinese chemists have developed a new nacre-like material which is stronger than natural nacre (mother of pearl). Nacre is a naturally occurring composite formed from calcium carbonate and biopolymers which create a brickwork structure. It is also nearly a thousand times stronger than any of its component parts and a major target for biomimetic synthesis.
The key to developing nacre-like materials with enhanced properties is in the design of the brickwork. The team developed a graphene and silk fibroin hydrogel, which was then solution-cast and dried to form parallel graphene plates bound with silk fibroin to create the brickwork structure via water-evaporation induced self-assembly.
The team are interested in utilising the high mechanical properties and biocompatibility of the component parts to develop the technology towards tissue engineering and scaffolds.